Thursday, April 30, 2009

Long tailed post brings victim testimony from the Towle case

Wouldn't have realised this if I hadn't been browsing google searches that bought people to my site. The post was on the case of Thomas Towle, who wiped out 6 kids after driving that could only be found to be culpable, except it wasn't, because he had Robert Richter and justice in this country still depends on the 'reputation' and 'gravitas' of the lead counsel. Anyway, on that post I wrote in a rather restrained way and merely discussed the higher sentences being handed out for culpable driving, a discussion rendered meaningless by the clever result pulled out of his silk's hat:

Towle, 36, was yesterday found not guilty of culpable driving, but guilty of six counts of dangerous driving causing death after he veered into the teenagers... Towle's prior convictions, including a string of driving offences and 40 court appearances between 1991 and 2003 that resulted in three jail terms. The long list includes being nabbed eight times for driving while his licence was cancelled or disqualified, and twice for drink-driving.

What a useless shit.

Anyway my old post on the topic proved to have a long tail, obviously coming up when desperate and angry friends of the victims were looking for somewhere to vent. Their views are more legitimate than mine, or frankly Robert Richter or Towle's bilious old man who both got plenty of airplay, so here they are in full, lest they be lost in the bowels of my archives:

i can't believe he will be out of prison in such a short time! thomas graham towel has killed 6 of my friends and made my life misery! he should be locked away forever for what he's done to their family and friends! how in the hell do can he be trusted to look after his own kids when hes killed 6?! i think it's just ridiculous... r.i.p cory shane abby cassie stevie and josie.. miss you guys sooo much! xoxox


I definately believe he was in the wrong....the Hirsts were family friends of my aunty, uncle and cousins....however I also know as Ive grown up in Mildura and have done the same thing - walking on those dark roads out there....that is also partly why it happened. I stress again that the driver was 100% in the wrong...but it also could have happened regardless who was burning around that corner...pls Mildura teenagers - do not walk on the dirt , dark roads out in Shire Mildy.!!! It couldve been me and a group of 8 others after our VCE ball out near Irymple - we were doing the same thing!!!

Poor buggers. What an awful case, on every level.

The rule against considering prior history comes from the nature of jury trials; maybe it's time we reconsidered the utility, in some cases, of both.

Reverse bigotry, or why I'm really just a patriarchal pig

Reeling from a recent bollocking I received on a site I no longer frequent, I'm here to write about my feelings. Any comment that doesn't respect those feelings, which I am entitled to even though I'm merely a lock-step member of the patriarchy who can't escape that all-encompassing construct, will be deleted. But please put it there anyway, because having spent years being, if a bit contrarian, I would have thought at least 2/3 of the time a defender and advocate of most reasonable levels of feminist argument, I feel utterly let down and am completely in the mood to clean house and rethink friendships.

If that sounds grumpy, or over-the-top, so be it. I try to express emotions honestly on this site, which is a much a personal as a political space, and this is how I feel.

I react badly to attacks from my own, speaking in a broad political sense. I admit this isn't rational and may draw on emotions sourced in notions like mateship, team loyalty or group identity that most of the left, including myself, are adept at picking apart. But it is still there; the sense that being aimed in generally the same direction on a broad swathe of issues might build the social capital that allows for differences of opinion to be understood and respected.

The notion also has a downside in that significant disappointments in this regard leave me questioning everything. Isn't this small-mindedness, marginalisation, or bigotry, what I am devoting energy to ending? If it's equally prevalent on my 'side' am I just under a delusion?

It's a stupid, naive notion and this final straw will hopefully ensure I don't raise an eyebrow in future when someone ignores my subjective experience as an individual and casts me, because of my gender, race, sexuality, or any other reference point for bigotry, as the generic 'other' against which their own fiercely polemic narrative must assert itself.

The left has always found its fiercest antagonisms to be internal. It is the political manifestation of the narcissism of minor differences, the peculiar contempt we feel for those who want to do things similarly, but not the same, as us. So the Greens hate Labor Left, and vice versa, and Socialists can turn on each other with spiteful rage. And yet I don't know if I should even think of myself as close to some of the extremes of what is ostensibly my 'side' of politics.

To be fair, in return, I am more of a centrist with a leftward leaning- it isn't my place, per se, to centre my own views as the middle of the left, some sort of objective reference point. I quite like Petro Georgiou and Malcolm Fraser, finding my political locus is not straightforward. But that doesn't mean I have to eagery lap up the kind of 'reverse' bigotry that allows people to make assumptions about me merely because of the role biology handed me in the breeding process.

Offensive is implying someone must be selfish in "male" ways, such as taking up too much room on crowded trains, when all you know about them is what's between their legs.

Offensive is suggesting some marginal space like the games room is the automatic repository for any males who don't want to talk footy and watch strippers, implying your interlocutor must either suit one or the other. That's like saying "oh there's a women's space already, look, the sewing room!"

Offensive is allowing vastly different standards in respect of the type of behaviours- for example sitting with legs wide apart, having an aggressive presentation, or even reading porn, depending, again, on what's between the person's legs.

I've known so many women who have experienced some tangible, sometimes shocking, misery at the hands of my own gender. I can see the large proportion of males who wander around waving their metaphorical (or literal) crotches and no doubt confirming the perceptions of both patriarchy and ongoing violent threat that so many women identify. There IS a long way to go. So there is a fair amount I will suck up out of respect for that ongoing problematic, from taking steps not to walk behind women on dark roads at night, to tempering my language, volume, or physical bearing out of sensitivity for the numerous experiences and unpleasant potentials those things have the capacity to trigger in others' perceptions, however benign my own intent.

I'm not angry, sorry if the strong expression of feelings above suggests otherwise. I am offended though, and a bit sad, and I would simply like to ask that if you disagree with any of the things I listed as finding offensive above, you do not comment, and leave me alone from now on, because I can't face the disappointment I will feel when I realise where I stand in your judgement. I have desisted from ad hominem attack and avoided naming or linking in respect of the thread in question, populated as it is by people I still hold some affection and respect for. We simply have what might be called an irreconcilable difference.

I would be grateful for the same courtesy- I've HAD ENOUGH for this month, thanks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The ultimate conflagration of the cliched structure of Idol and Dance, coupled with the abject crass rudeness of that English thug, fizzled in the middle, nicely articulated by the G-G:

I lasted 20 minutes before I switched off and went to the kitchen to microwave a cup of Continental Chicken Noodle Soup and a couple of yesterday's Krispy Kreme Donuts for supper.

Who cannot but be tempted by yesterday's Krispy Kremes?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts on swine, pandemics, and parenthood

Not surprised Doctors are sounding the alarm, global pandemic is considered by many to be the greatest threat to human security on the planet. Notably the UK:

An illustration of the major risks in the report suggests that electronic attacks on computer or communication systems and terrorist attacks are among the most likely threats, but would not have the widespread impact of a flu pandemic.

The Big One uses as its point of reference the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918-20, the pandemic equivalent (along with the more ghoulish but also distant spectre of the Bubonic Plague) of World War II. This is not irrational, and despite the advances in microbiology, general health and nutrition since the harsh years following the Great War there is no reason to think it couldn't happen again.

That flu had a (morbidly) fascinating effect of primarily hitting those we would expect to have the most resistance: young adults. Apparently this was due to causing an over-reaction in immune systems, so the stronger the immune system the more damage the disease caused- a cytokine storm.

The last I read about it Australian governments had bought out large stockplies of drugs and related flu management equipment, but this is earmarked for 'essential services' rather than widespread vaccination of the general populace. What the rest of us could hope to do is probably to make the call early enough and stay home, or run for the hills. Stockpiling, as much as it is reminiscent of cellars full of provisions for nuclear war, probably makes sense:

But Woolworths and Coles, the nation's two major supermarket chains, will run out of stock within two to four weeks without a supply chain – or even faster if shoppers panic.

This has prompted a team of leading nutritionists and dietitians from the University of Sydney to compile "food lifeboat" guidelines to cover people's nutritional needs for at least 10 weeks. Their advice – published in the Medical Journal of Australia – would allow citizens to stay inside their homes and avoid contact with infected people until a vaccine becomes available.

The lifeboat includes affordable long-life staples such as rice, biscuits, milk powder, Vegemite, canned tuna, chocolate, lentils, Milo and Weet-Bix...

We will likely be victims of our own society, the primacy of work and the difficulty we would cause for ourselves, and those who work with and rely on us, if each time a pandemic threatened we stayed home from the outset and battened down the hatches for a week.

If in doubt I have told Beloved I would like her to retreat to the family farm, up in the foothills of the Snowys, with the kids, before the rush, in that awful grey zone where the likelihood of a biological holocaust is becoming realistic, but the impact is not yet visceral enough to allow me, most of us worker drones, to lose the guilt and flee from our workstations.

Take me. Do not take my children.

UPDATE: a literary analogy that came to me while commenting at LP:

The awful quandrary could be likened to that of the townspeople in Everything Is Illuminated, hearing of the approaching SS and the tales of what was happening to Jews but, in most cases, unable to make such a stark call as to pack up their things and flee, until it was too late.

UPDATE II: Roxon reassures, we have almost 9 million doses of antiviral stockpiled. This must be reassuring for the mathematically ungifted.

UPDATE III: Rather less than amusing in Mexico.

UPDATE IV: Heightened risk of pandemic, says WHO.

Others: Robert at LP hopes we dodge the bullet. Bullet? So much worse.

ANZAC in a line

We're into distilling here in Armagnac country, so here's the ever-eloquent Nabakov (our Melbourne Nabakov of course) on ANZAC rememberance:

But risking your own arse to pull your mate out of a swamp of shell-stirred shit, blood and mud and then bullshitting to your cynical commanding officers about what happened is what this nation was really founded on.

Such good writing it needed to be repeated and embedded into the netosphere.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

PJ O'Rourke distils it, serves it to his own in a snifter

A nutshell summary of the complex art, practised in particular by so many commercial lawyers, of structuring chalk to resemble cheese:

"Conservatives are champions of the free market, and the free market is based on transparency and the rule of law. Now for three decades, since Thatcher and Reagan, we conservatives have had the rule of law and the means of transparency in our hands and have handed the world a load of crap.

"There is a simple rule here, a rule of legislation, a rule of business, a rule of life: beyond a certain point complexity is fraud. You can apply that rule to left-wing social programs but you can also apply that rule to credit derivatives, hedge funds, all the rest of it," Mr O'Rourke said.

Well put PJ, let's start on 'tax advising' next.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'Mummy, you're a good mummy'

So said Bear as we sat eating breakfast. Beloved almost cried as she laughed. Bear is pushing boundaries and being a 2&abit, but there's no doubting she's got a big heart.

It's hard to be sure, but she may be acting out more now than she did when Mitt-Mitts first arrived. Long days fighting for the attention of a mum with an infant brother who needs feeding all the time, circled by angst-ridden cats and trapped in the modest confines of a townhouse that has what estate agents might euphemistically describe as 'low maintenance outdoor spaces', must take its toll. And not just on Bear.

Beloved is indeed 'a good mummy'; as I've mentioned before I remain in awe of her focus, staying power, and capacity for love under such pressure. Right now, I don't know how she does it. To see her holding Mitta on the boob with one hand and an open book with the other, reading to Bear, is to witness multi-tasking that would (or at least should) make Rudd's Chief of Staff wince.

She takes it in her stride, but her eyes show the tension of working constantly to maintain focus and sanity under such pressure and with so little sleep or support. I try, but working full time again means I just can't be present for the hardest bits.

As for Bear, well, she's doing ok but she lets us know. A girl is articulate and demanding, and balancing the need to push back and set boundaries with the need to reassure and give unconditional love is like removing ear wax from a sleeping moose.

(I have no idea where that simile came from, but I had to keep it.)

Last night she somehow crawled under her doona and woke to find herself trapped. She was screaming and shoving in all directions when I got to her room, head pressed against the side rail. She sobbed and sobbed with pulse racing as we stood there in the dark, my hugs and back-patting little consolation until Beloved arrived.

Sometimes reassurance can only come from a good mummy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mewling Malcolm needs to straighten his bat

Turnbull, I suspect, is not of the hardline group within the Liberal Party (and other right wing organs like News Limited) that want to beat up refugees at every opportunity. However he is presently allowing a virulent strand of security and fear driven attack to open up under his watch, getting the potential political mileage while personally 'distancing' himself from the detail.

So far all we get is a combination of salivating right wingers and a leader who says it is 'too easy' for those seeking asylum.

This is not good enough. His party, under his leadership, needs to have a coherent position, and in particular this needs to spell out: exactly what is it about the previous regime that they propose to reinstate?

Labor's policy is not soft- soft would be treating all asylum claimants as prima facie legitimate, respecting their freedom until given reason to do otherwise, providing them with ample resources and so on. Labor's policy is only soft in comparison with the policy employed by the Liberals when they were in power.

So what exactly does Turnbull want to reinstate? This very valid question popped up on Q&A last night but was not answered. Is it:

... The Pacific 'Solution'?

... Indefinite detention, sometimes lasting for years?

... Legitimising administrative error and neglectful misuse of power (this is what is effectively entailed by curtailing the ability to appeal)?

Malcolm, please answer. Which of these is needed so that the regime is no longer 'too' easy? If you don't want any of these awful regressions then show leadership, rein in your attack dogs, and let go of this one as a stick with which to beat, via the disenfranchised, the government.

At least Howard took direct responsibility for his unpleasant policies.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Queue-Jumping Boat People Are Flooding Our Shores!

Love those flood/water/tsunami metaphors, as the Australian wheels out the headline 'Rising tide of boatpeople'. A tide, a flood:

...49 suspected asylum seekers...

Shit, I better run home and lock up my wife and daughter.

...the sixth boat to arrive this year...

*stops breathing*

...a total of 276 unauthorised arrivals...

*skin turns clammy*

There have now been 455 unauthorised arrivals since the Rudd Government announced the changes last year.

There it is, the clincher, the underlying narrative being rebuilt for the grand purpose of domestic regime change- Labor is bad for your security and is going to let brown terrorists overrun our great land where beer flows and men plunder.

We have 6 figure immigration but 455 UNAUTHORISED arrivals is a crisis. Remind me again, after the last time we went down this path and victimised these desperate people, how many ended up being found to be legitimate refugees? I don't have the number in front of me* but I believe an accurate characterisation would be 'an overwhelming majority'.

So, let's have it again, if they are genuine refugees then their attempt to gain asylum is legitimate and legal.

And someone is snivelling along, betraying his claims to being smart and liberal as he lets his incoherent attack dog try to whip up the hysteria again:

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the Rudd government had given a green light to people smugglers and put out the welcome mat for illegal migrants.

Come on Turnbull, surely even you draw the line at stooping this low...

* Wiki has "over 80%" as the figure, anything out there to contravene that?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rosanna, Rosanna...

Once was young, once was freewheeling.

We live near one of Australia's coolest strips, and we love it- at least what we remember of the places we used to frequent. But with several years of on-and-off house watching under our belts, a second child, and a renewed love of trees and bicycle paths and streetscapes that don't look like they were intentionally designed to drive out all people under 14, things move on. Like my hairline, six pack, and dreams of doing anything useful with myself.

So, anyway, not for any good reason, but does anyone out there have a view on life in Rosanna, Heidelberg, Viewbank or Macleod?

Just asking.

I was converted first. Beloved- think she switched over as we were walking through one of several nice bands of parkland up there, kookaburras on branches, Bear warbling and running from tree to tree, bike paths linking playground with playground.

And pursuant to a little chat going on at Helen's, I don't mind the look of this or this either.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Mittsa has had a further meeting with the blunt instrument known as our Maternal and Child Health Nurse. Joyously ours since Bear's birth, she's had many opportunities to gruffly accuse Beloved of 'you wiping baby bum too hard' (thrush, in fact) or 'no-one show you how to dress baby' (no-one, indeed, as this is partly the job of individuals like the Mat Nurse, together with not being a complete bitch who makes young mums feel like crap).

Anyway, she's soften slightly, perhaps amazed that we've managed to keep our kids alive this long, and has had little to argue with in respect of Mitts.

Over the 97th percentile for weight, and 90th for length and head circumferance. He's a boof!

But he's got a soft heart, with huge smiles for his dad and a penchant for big cuddles. Since birth he has seemingly attained a level of zen that he carries through the vicissitudes of the day, easily placated with a hug or a chat. He coos multi-syllabled dipthongs that get closer and closer to sounding like words, words that are wizzing around in daddy's head waiting for a match: da-dy, lo-ve oo, fay-vrite, car-dools.

Our moments are still too brief.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sticking hands with Twitter

Sticking hands is an esoteric concept from Wing Chun kung fu, often performed blindfolded, where two partners play an intuitive game and seek through soft pressure to find their way through their partner's defences.

In this way I have slapped my way into Twitter, reappraised, and redrawn my profile there.

The reason I made my twitter profile, freely linked from (and to) this site, purely a dad streak, was to see if it had value as a local networker. By having my general region and parenthood explicitly in the title I thought this might lead rapidly to bonding with other parentals in my area, on top of a more general theme of soppy haiku-like mementos of parenthood. But I've observed a few things.

Twitter's great value is in the moment, the instant, and the ubiquity. In context, you can make a comment quicker than you can on a blog and have that instantly publish, not just to people with you on their feedreader, but to the entire rapidly expanding Twitter world. It gets lost in moments in a busy topic, such as earthquakes or fires, however people then read down into the variety of comments on a given topic. They can also feed off one idea and keep this going.

It also nicely complements the blog in its sheer ease, allowing time-poor plebians like moiself to make passing comment when we don't have the time to analyse and properly parse the issues.

I've now glued the dovetail fit and two are one. Or to take my original metaphor, my hand reached Twitter's chest, for a moment, and I've retaken its measure.

Life goes on dear reader, unaffected as you are. Just wanted to explain...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How the hell did Brian Pape get standing?

Taxpayer prerogative to challenge all spending?

The full bench of the High Court set aside two days — yesterday and today — to consider the challenge brought by law lecturer Bryan Pape. The barrister and University of New England academic argues that the payments — worth billions — exceed the Federal Government's taxation powers.

Did something change since I studied intro to public law? What on earth is this fool's particular personal interest in blocking a payment? Per Gibbs J: interest, for present purposes, does not mean a mere intellectual or emotional concern. A person is not interested within the meaning of the rule, unless he is likely to gain some advantage, other than the satisfaction of righting a wrong, upholding a principle or winning a contest, if his action succeeds or to suffer some disadvantage, other than a sense of grievance or a debt for costs if his action fails..

If merely being a concerned taxpayer who doesn't want their money spent improperly gives standing, I'd like to question about 400,000 different pieces of expenditure, thanks.

Have I missed some specific law change to facilitate overfed Barrister/Academics have a pot shot at their will, or is this just another case of the so-called black letter lawyer's High Court dropping the bar for something close to their hearts?

UPDATE: High Court has knocked the fool back. That would have cost the taxpayer at least 3 schoolteachers worth of legal costs, wonder if they'll recover all...?

Asians and what won't Malcolm say to find a spike?

Can you picture Labor handing China a blank piece of paper, let them write a wish list that included rewriting our intellectual property laws, then claiming victory with a 'free trade agreement'?

What about China getting into a bit of a spat, self-evidently a stupid one, flicking it's fingers and finding our panting leader by their side, directing the ADF onto the battlefield? Far fetched?

I think so too, which is why you can rest assured that no matter how close our government get to Beijing, there will be none of the complete abdication of policy responsibility that took place under Malcolm's party. More than that, the fact that the Liberals not only had much closer ties with a range of elements in the US, but labled anyone who questioned that closeness as 'anti-American' and 'weak on security' (baffling to anyone who knows what security means in international relations discourse), shows that they have no problem with completely attaching to a foreign power that self-evidently has different national interests.

So, is it so absurd to ask whether race, or at best completely discredited notions of yellow peril, underpin their tub thumping about Labor and China?

The only explanation I can find for Turnbull's playing to the lowest denominator, the utter dumbing down of the man many of us thought would be a fascinating and more likeable leader of the Liberals, is that he has lost his bottle. He is flailing for the 'Howard touch', and it won't come to him, he is not that person, to his credit, and this course will surely lead him into cognitive dissonance and further collapse.

Once were shopping warrior

In just over 2 years my ability to shop confidently has unravelled and I am either middle-aged dad or 14 year old geek redux.

It is difficult to believe a blogger might not so long ago have been reasonably in control of the zeitgeist, able to walk into a shop full of colourful trainers and walk out with some fantastic vintage Golas just before the style took hold, or a pair of bright red Ferrari one-offs mere months before red was everywhere. But, dear reader, I bordered on such control. I shopped with confidence. Even Beloved acknowledged I had an eye for style and cut; indeed she's spoken many times of the instant impression I made when we hooked up in London back at the tale end of 2002. So long ago.

For a guy, and I accept the proscription, I dressed pretty well.

So *ahem* as you know I've had 2 kids and largely been in hibernation where things cultural are concerned. Even my blogging suffered! And now I'm starting to walk around, blinking, trying to dress myself again and finding it hard to avoid ending up in Katmandu tops, generic-looking running shoes, and other 'comfortable' wear befitting a man of a certain disposition. That is, the dad who has given up on aesthetics for good.

I'm not there, but it's unnerving. I'm insecure in shops, in a way I haven't been since perhaps my late teens when I first started to get a sense of personal style. Worse, I see things such as '80s style basketball trainers and I want to give people a lecture on how we had those back when I was a boy.

Damn! How does that sneak up on you?

Anyway this is not entirely a narrative of horror and fatalism, I think I persevered and found a pair of trainers that both suit me and do not mark me out as someone who inhabits Bunnings and Football BBQs. They are retro- back to the '60s, which beats the '80s any day for me.

But in the process I basically got 2 different shoestore dudes to "explain to me how it all works at the moment with shoes and stuff", which is probably like going up to a lifeguard and asking how to do the dog paddle.

Now... shirts, jackets, jeans....